Google apologises to India’s Karnataka over ‘ugliest language’ search results

Tech giant says the search isn't always perfect and can yield 'surprising results'

News Desk June 04, 2021

The Indian state of Karnataka on Thursday announced that it planned to send a legal notice to Google after a search result showed the state's official language, Kannada, as the "ugliest language in India".

A Google search with the keywords "ugliest language in India" displayed Kannada as the top result, drawing backlash on social media.

The tech giant later released a statement and apologised for "the misunderstanding and hurting any sentiments". In response to the controversy, a Google spokesperson said the search isn't always perfect.

"Sometimes, the way content is described on the internet can yield surprising results to specific queries. We know this is not ideal, but we take swift corrective action when we are made aware of an issue and are continually working to improve our algorithms."

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Naturally, the spokesperson added, these are not reflective of the opinions of Google, and "we apologise for the misunderstanding and hurting any sentiments."

However, many, including leaders from the southern Indian state, expressed their outrage at the search result.

Karnataka minister Aravind Limbavali demanded an apology from the tech company, saying that this was an attempt by Google to insult the pride of Kannada speakers.

"The Kannada language has a history of its own, having come into existence as many as 2,500 years ago. It has been the pride of Kannadigas all through these two-and-a-half millennia," Limbavali tweeted.

In a string of tweets, HD Kumaraswamy, former chief minister of the state, said "not just Kannada, no language is bad, adding that abuse against languages is painful".

"Is it impossible for Google to curb such hatred against any language?" he asked.

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Google is one of the fastest-growing tech firms in India and has expanded its presence in many Indian states and languages. It plans to further expand in India as mobile internet continues to reach even some of the remotest parts of the country.

Tech giant eventually excluded the webpage from its search results. By then, videos and thousands of social media posts were shared criticising the search result.

(With additional input from BBC)

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